Summer League is a place where three things generally happen:
- Teams and fans get their first taste of how rookies stack up against other young players in the league.
- Second and third year players get to show off where they’ve improved from last season.
- Players who don’t have guaranteed deals have a chance to make their case for why they should be on a roster, whether it’s the team they’re playing for in Las Vegas, or another team who sees them do well and thinks they can fit. For example, Seth Curry turned a stellar performance in Las Vegas with the Pelicans into a contract with the Sacramento Kings.
Considering the Wizards didn’t take anyone in last month’s draft, this year’s trip to Vegas is mostly about seeing how 2015 draft picks Kelly Oubre and Aaron White have developed since last year’s trip.
However, there’s also a very real chance that the Wizards could look to add some more talent from this year’s Summer League to their 15-man roster for the regular season. As things currently stand, the Wizards are nearly out of cap space and still have a few spots to fill. Their best option to fill some of those holes may very well be with cheap, undrafted players who will be playing in Las Vegas.
With that in mind, here’s a look at what we’ll be keeping an eye out for at this year’s Summer League.
Which Kelly Oubre will we see in Las Vegas?
We’ve seen two different versions of Kelly Oubre. There’s the version we saw in Las Vegas and in garbage time stints during the regular season who can fire away from deep and has a knack for getting into the paint and drawing contact. There’s also the version who stepped into the starting lineup at times and focused on playing the classic 3-and-D role for the team.
Odds are, his career path will push him more towards being a 3-and-D guy, but it’s hard to develop those skills in Las Vegas with teammates he’s only playing with for a week. What makes it even trickier is that Oubre will be forced to initiate a lot of the offense, since he’s the team’s best player, which takes away energy he can use on the defensive end.
But regardless of the role the Wizards have planned for Oubre in the future, there’s one big thing he can work on in Summer League: Passing. At last year’s Summer League, he only averaged 1.3 assists per game, even though he handled the ball quite a bit. He followed that up by only averaging 0.9 assists per 100 possessions in the regular season. The only players who averaged fewer assists per 100 possessions were Hassan Whiteside, Bismack Biyombo, and Dewayne Dedmon.
This summer, he’ll be surrounded by guys who can knock down open shots if they get the chance (more on that in a bit). If Oubre doesn’t show improvement in that part of his game in Vegas, it’s going to be hard for him to excel on any development path.
Is Aaron White ready to play in the NBA?
When White played in Summer League last season, we knew ahead of time he wouldn’t be on the roster, because the team drafted him with the intent of stashing him in Europe. Frankly, it’s a good thing they did, because his performance in Vegas last year didn’t justify an NBA roster spot. He only averaged 3.0 points in 17.5 minutes of action per game and went 0-9 from beyond the arc as he tried to work on his stretch four game.
But now, after a successful season in Germany, White has a chance to show how he’s grown after a year of playing professional basketball overseas. The recent Jason Smith signing may make it difficult for White to find a spot on the roster this season, but if he really takes a step forward, perhaps they find a way to squeeze him in as one of the last guys on the roster as injury insurance.
Can Jarell Eddie keep his spot on the roster?
As of right now, Jarell Eddie is on the 15-man roster for next season, but there’s still an outside chance that could change. His $980,431 salary doesn’t become fully guaranteed until July 15, so he still needs to sing for supper a little bit in Las Vegas to ensure the Wizards don’t consider options.
His track record in Summer League and in the D-League suggests that he should be fine. He shot 46.5 percent on threes in 55 games in the D-League over the past two seasons and averaged the exact same percentage on threes last summer with the Spurs’ Summer League team who won the tournament.
That said, it would be nice to see Eddie show he can excel as a shooter outside of the Spurs’ system, especially since his hot shooting didn’t translate for the most part after he signed with the Wizards last season. If he can show he can still be a useful shooter working off of Kelly Oubre, that helps his case. And of course, anything he can do to show that he can provide value beyond his shooting helps as well.
Can Sheldon McClellan come in and snag a spot?
In a lot of ways, the former Hurricane is the Wizards’ second round draft pick this season. There were reports he could have been drafted in the second round had he chosen to comply with a draft-and-stash plan, but instead he signed a partially guaranteed deal as an undrafted rookie free agent, hoping he could make the Wizards’ roster this season.
It won’t be easy for McClellan, but he’s got a shot. Over the course of his collegiate career, his outside shot steadily improved from 31 percent as a freshman at Texas to over 40 percent during his senior season with the Hurricanes. He’s still more of a catch-and-shoot guy than someone like Eddie who can shoot from a variety of angles and positions, but what McClellan lacks as a well-rounded outside shooter he makes up for with his ability to penetrate and get above the rim in transition:
With how much the team has invested in Bradley Beal and Tomas Satoransky, there’s a good argument to be made for why it would make sense to have a young player on a cheap deal like Eddie or McClellan on the roster, but it probably doesn’t make sense to spend two roster spots on somewhat similar players on similar deals. It may very well come down to who performs better in Las Vegas.
What about Shawn Dawson?
As we’ve already detailed, Shawn Dawson is an interesting prospect on this year’s team. He’s a lot like McClellan in that he was close to being a second round draft pick, so he should add a lot of value to the team.
The thing that makes Dawson’s chance of making the roster a little more tricky is Kelly Oubre. If Oubre struggles, it’s going to put a lot more pressure on the Wizards to bring in a veteran to provide a more reliable option behind Otto Porter. But if Oubre does take the next step and show he’s ready for a big role, it makes it a lot easier to invest a roster spot in Dawson’s future.
UPDATE: What about Daniel Ochefu?
Summer League play hasn't even begun and Villanova's big man is already apparently turning heads. Ochefu, who was not listed in the DraftExpress Top 100, has reportedly done enough to get a three-year minimum deal from the team.
Now, it's worth noting only $50,000 worth of that contract is guaranteed, so the Wizards aren't committing to much at this point. All that it really does at this point is keep another team from trying to sign him away after Summer League ends. But clearly, if the Wizards are worried someone would try to sign him away and possibly ink him up to a deal, that should say something about how impressed they are by what he's shown so far and what he could potentially add if he makes the 15-man roster.
Can I watch these guys play?
Yes. All Summer League games this year will be available on ESPN3. Also, CSN Mid-Atlantic will be broadcasting the first three games of Summer League live and as encores.
Here’s the schedule:
- Saturday, July 9 at 6:30 pm EST vs. Utah Jazz.
- Sunday, July 10 at 4:00 pm EST vs. Atlanta Hawks
- Tuesday, July 12 at 4:00 pm EST vs. Brooklyn Nets
From there, the Wizards will be seeded into the Summer League tournament, where they will play at least two more games.